The Jim Crow Museum has been at Ferris State University for many years now. However, the museum is moving from its previous location in an old classroom on the third floor of the Starr Building to the basement of FLITE library and in the process greatly expanding itself into a much larger display.
“We were stuck in a converted classroom,” said Dr. David Pilgrim, chief diversity officer at the Office of Multicultural Student Services and founder of the the museum. “There was no room for the displays there.”
The new facility certainly gives much more room and expands the museum greatly, Pilgrim said.
The new facility is comparatively huge, costing 1.3 million dollars to put together. It contains many different displays, the majority of which are racist in nature. Among these displays is a collection of racist postcards from Michigan.
One thing visitors will certainly notice is a large lynching tree with a noose hanging from it. This reinforces the chilling violent nature of racism.
Dr. Pilgrim said, “The system Jim Crow could not exist without violence to enforce it.”
Other exhibits range from old items stereotyping and mocking African-Americans as idiots, servants and whores to more modern displays of racism. One particularly disturbing exhibit is a carnival attraction where African-Americans would have their heads locked into place while people would throw objects at them for entertainment.
While the Jim Crow Museum rightly captures the dark and violent nature of racism, it is not all negative. The new museum shows the positive African-American response to racism and achievement and showcases prominent thinkers, politicians, leaders, military members and entertainers. The museum is also home to the pen that President Lyndon B. Johnson used to sign the Civil Rights Act.
At the end of the tour is a mural painted by FSU faculty called “Cloud of Witnesses,” which honors those who died during the Civil Rights Movement.
“The Jim Crow Museum is hands-on education; Ferris is all about that same principle,” Dr. Pilgrim said. “We see this as an incredible academic resource for our students and the rest of the world. We want our students graduating with a good understanding of diversity as you can get at any institution in this country,”
Dr. Pilgrim added, “We want to get entire classes in here and keep them here for dialogue. We have open hours from noon to five and free admission for everyone.”
The grand opening ceremony will be taking place at 11 a.m. April 26 at Williams Auditorium. All are invited to attend.